How could such a wonderful idea be executed so poorly?!

by Martin Hafer

Ida is a film that I should have loved since the story idea was very, very strong. Yet, inexplicably, the film managed to lose me due to the zombie-like acting and the overall lack of energy. It’s a darn shame–I really wanted to like this film.
The title character is a novice at a nunnery at around 1960 in Poland She’s planning on becoming a full-fledged nun but has yet to take her final vows. However, before this ceremony can occur, the Reverend Mother calls her to her office. Although Ida was raised in an orphanage, it seems that she does have one family member–an aunt who refused to take her in when she needed a home. Now the head of the nunnery wants Ida to make contact with the aunt.

Directed by
Pawel Pawlikowski
Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik
Release Date
May 2014
Martin’s Grade: C-

This is an odd request–and it makes sense once she meets this lady. It turns out that the reason Ida was an orphan was that her parents were Jews and were murdered during the Holocaust…and this aunt is the only other survivor in the family. The aunt is a bit screwed up and drinks a lot, but the two manage to spend time getting to know each other.
Then, the both go off on a trek to learn the fates of Ida’s parents–something that others really don’t want to discuss. After all, many of these folks had helped the Nazis track down the Jews or even killed them for the Nazis. During all this, Ida remains steadfast in her desire to become a nun…that is until very late in the film when she begins to act a bit inexplicably.

The film has one of the better story ideas I can recall about the Holocaust–mostly because it’s so novel. However, the story managed to make very little of this due to the odd decision to have almost zero energy in the film. As for the actress playing Ida, I doubt if she spoke for more than about two minutes during the film and could be described almost as if she’s sleepwalking throughout the picture. As for the aunt, she has some feeling but drowns it in booze–and her feelings, while present, are still very restrained–too restrained. The overall feeling of this under-emoting and stark black & white cinematography is underwhelming to say the least. This film should have been very hard-hitting and intense. Instead, it just limps to a conclusion that simply left me baffled. Not a terrible film by any means but one that left me disappointed and frustrated.